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Money, Trade and Politics: from the Gold Standard to the Euro crisis

Money, Trade and Politics: from the Gold Standard to the Euro crisis
(Dr D. Needham)


This course introduces students to the theory and practice of the various institutions that have facilitated international trade and wealth creation since the nineteenth century.  Some of these emerged organically, others were planned responses to economic collapse and global conflagration.  All relied upon some level of credibility and cooperation between competing nation states.  We shall look at the emergence of the classical Gold Standard that underpinned globalisation in the late nineteenth century.  The First World War shattered the intricate web of international trade and, despite the attempt to reconstitute the pre-war Gold Standard, the global economy collapsed with the competitive devaluations and protectionism of the 1930s.  At Bretton Woods in 1944, the planners of the post-war international economy sought to combine the discipline of the Gold Standard with the flexibility of adjustable exchange rates.  Over the next quarter-century, the world enjoyed unprecedented economic growth as international trade returned to levels not witnessed since before the First World War.  However, the Bretton Woods Gold Exchange Standard contained the seeds of its own destruction, and its collapse in the early 1970s marked the abrupt end of the Golden Age of Capitalism.  The leading European nations used the ensuing period of economic improvisation to develop the European Monetary System that ultimately gave birth to the European single currency.  The course finishes by taking students up to the present by examining how the flaws within this system led to the Euro crisis.  It places the crisis in historical perspective by showing today’s policy makers wrestling with essentially the same theoretical and practical issues as their predecessors over the past century. 

Seminar Topics 

  1. Free trade and the evolution of the Gold Standard.
  2. The First World War and international trade.
  3. The interwar global economy and the collapse of the Gold Standard.
  4. Bretton Woods, international trade and the Golden Age of Capitalism.
  5. The collapse of Bretton Woods.
  6. The Washington consensus.
  7. The single European market and the birth of the Euro.
  8. The Euro crisis.